First thing to know about ACTUALLY accomplishing your dreams ... is right here!
Powerful story about a pivotal moment, a crossroads on his path to fulfilling his dreams, from my former fitness trainer who became Mr. America and is inducted into the fitness Hall of Fame.
I was training with him in Delray Beach a few years prior this event ... this is a true story of the shift it takes to make it!
Intensity or Insanity
(Notes from my book, Part 7)
By John DeFendis
"Atlantic City, NJ1987
The lights were bright and everywhere I looked, I saw people gambling.
Black Jack, Poker, Slot Machines, Craps and Roulette. I was never much of a gambler myself.
That's probably why I trained so hard every year but never showed
up for the big day.
I wanted to win the Mr. USA title and turn pro, but I couldn't handle the risk of standing onstage with anything but the overall title and trophy.
After all, I placed third in 1979, and I needed to be sure that I could win the overall if I stepped on stage again at that show.￼
That’s right, the stakes were too high, and I would rather not risk failure.
It was easier to watch the others and excuse myself with promises of future victories.
I remember that day like it was yesterday. My good friend Alex paid for my plane fare and ticket to the Nationals in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Perhaps he thought that it would inspire me to compete again and go after my dream of becoming a pro.
After all, it was almost five years since I hit my trademark vacuum pose in front of a crowd.
What made the day interesting was the fact that I was drinking beer with my sidekick, Walter.
Walter couldn't believe that I was drinking and reveled in the thought that he was corrupting me.
John DeFendis drinking beer?
I never drank beer.
I never drank.
The closest I came to alcohol was a Shirley Temple or Virgin Pina Colada.
But this day was different. I was drinking to escape the truth, and the truth was that I was slowly watching my dreams disappear.
Another year was passing by and another Champion was about to be handed the trophy that I thought I deserved.
I was the fox in Aesops fable:
“The Fox and the Sour Grapes."
You see the fox wanted the grapes so bad, and he kept jumping to pull them off of the vine.
His attempts were futile and finally he fell to the ground, exhausted and grapeless.
Knowing that he was never going to savor the sweet taste of the grapes he became vindictive and negative.
As he lay on the ground, he looked up and said, "Who wants those rotten, sour grapes anyway!"
As I sat in the second row with Alex and Walter. I criticized the competitors onstage with my slurred speech.
I kept saying, "Look at these guys onstage...they ain't got nothin.
They probably mortgaged their houses and sold their cars just to pay for their food, supplements and airfare. Most of them are going to go home with empty dreams and empty pockets!"
I downed another beer and kept saying that I would never make that mistake again.
As I drowned myself in inner sorrow, I tried to convince myself that I was totally content being a wannabe. Who needed this?
Why would I want to subject myself to the rigors of contest training just to win a title?
Even better yet...
Why would I want to gamble and take a chance of losing in front of thousands of spectators?
It was so much easier sitting there with my Budweiser in hand while laughing at the competitors.
But, was I really laughing at them or was I really laughing at myself for not following through on my goals and realizing my dreams?
Afterall, how could I laugh at the great Shawn Ray as he stood up there with the winners trophy and title with a body that a Greek god would envy?
The next day I awoke with a feeling of nausea and uneasiness. I was told that this was a hangover from my beer escapade, but I knew better.
I knew it was much more serious than that. I knew what I had to do, and I realized that I would not be able to live with myself until I followed through and won the USA.
I went back to Florida, and I carefully planned out the next eight months with my focus on winning the 1988 USA.
It would have to be a flawless plan...
No miscalculations and…
Even though the contest was to be held in Las Vegas, I refused to gamble...
Knowing that I must be at my best and minimize any chance of being defeated.
I knew the drill well.
Wake up at 5:00 am, cook all six meals, slam down some black coffee that resembled mud with a half of a cantaloupe and an Animal Pak.
Then it was off to war.
Every workout was a grueling testimonial of the effort that it would take to win the USA and solidify my dream.
After all, it was 1988 and overtraining didn't exist.
It was the era of Intensity or Insanity workouts with 40, 50 and 60 set routines.
A typical leg workout consisted of a nonstop cycle of 500 pound Squats, 1600 pound leg presses and a leg extension machine that looked like it had its last day ...
From the burden of countless repetitions with the pin buried at the bottom of the stack!
Then there was stiff legged deadlifts, leg curls and seated leg curls for a hundred reps each followed by a 20 minute set of lunges around the outside of the mall with a hundred pounds on my back.
(The gym was connected to a shopping mall)
Why were all the shoppers staring as I fell countless times and then regrouped and continued my trek?
Did they feel sorry for me?
If so, I never understood why because I was living my dream...
I was having the time of my life because I knew where I was going.
I didn't need anybody feeling sorry for me because I was on top of the world.
Nobody was going to beat me because I made sure that I was going way beyond all limits that my competitors would have set for themselves.
I lived and died in that gym every workout and every day!
There is no greater feeling on earth than the feeling that you have when you know that you have done EVERYTHING humanly possible ...
To achieve your goal and live your dream!
I lived my dream, and I continue to set new goals and have new dreams.
That is what life is all about…
Being the best at everything you choose to do and not settling for second place.
Las Vegas is the gambling capitol of the world ...
I loved Las Vegas on that hot, dry summer night in July of 1988…
But I never had time to gamble.
I just went in and did my thing and got out.
I never was a gambler."
Are you a gambler TRYING to make it?
Or a wannabe that LOOKS like you're working at it, but not succeeding at the level of your dreams ?
Get off the fence of mediocrity and excuses!
Decisions are what shifts the gears from "trying really hard" ...
To the intensity and HEART of being ALL IN ...
And committed to not only doing whatever it takes ...
But going ABOVE AND BEYOND!
Doing what your competitors won't do ...
That gives you the edge and catupults you to accomplishing your dream.
INTENSITY AND EMOTION (HEART) ...
And a rule that ...
FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION!
THIS is the gear you need to shift into!
Anything less is TRYING.
Not giving your all is gambling with money, memtors, sponsors, and horses that you will never get back ...
Gambling with the little time and "perfect windows of opportunities" that you have been blessed with.
Seize the day, my friends!
Make it happen!
Breakthrough, Equestrian Mental Skills Coach
Emotional Strength & Resiliency Trainer